Minnesota families celebrate the gift of life at Transplant Games in Salt Lake City

More than one thousand athletes are in Salt Lake City this week, competing in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America.

The Olympic-style events include everything from basketball, to bowling, to ballroom dancing.

Almost all of the athletes have one thing in common, they have received the gift of life. More than 60 teams from around the country will be there to compete, including a team representing Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

By every account, 18-year-old Anna duSaire is at the top of her game.

She is a recent graduate of St. Louis Park High School. She runs track, participates in gymnastics and will soon be a collegiate athlete.

DuSaire has also received the gift of life, a full liver transplant when she was 2 years old.

“It obviously saved my life. I wouldn't be here without it,” duSaire said.

She has never let it slow her down. Every two years since she was four, duSaire has competed in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America.

This will be her 8th time at the event, where she will compete in track, volleyball and pickleball.

“It's a big event to show that transplantation works and that we are all alive and able to compete and to live our lives normally, because of the transplants we've received,” duSaire said.

At the games, duSaire earns medals, makes memories and honors the donors and their families.

“The intent of the games is more to show that transplantation works and to celebrate the gifts and to celebrate the donors,” duSaire said.  

The games pay special tribute to people like Patti Harvey from New Brighton. Her son Danne Lynch died in a car accident in Salt Lake City in 1994. He was 27 years old.

“Danne had made the decision himself before we had talked about it, and he said, 'if anything ever happened to my mom, why wouldn't you donate?' That was his question, 'why not,' not ‘why,’ but ‘why not,’” Harvey said.

Danne donated his heart, pancreas, kidneys and liver to four different recipients.

In fact, Harvey built a family-like friendship with one of the men her son saved.

She says going to the Transplant Games helps heal her still-broken heart.

“My favorite thing to do is hang out with recipients. I claim them all. I do. It helps, it helps,” Harvey said.

This will be Harvey’s first time at the Transplant Games. The opening ceremony is on Friday.